By David Becker
Dear Style Experts,
I am creating a table that presents information from multiple sources, and I can't figure out how to cite these sources within the table. What should I do?
How you cite your sources depends on the context. If you are reproducing or adapting an existing table, you will need to seek permission and cite the source in a credit line beneath the table. Note that this credit line can identify particular sets of data in your table (e.g., “The data in column 1 are from…”). Thus, if you are adapting material from multiple sources—that is, extracting rows or columns from previously published tables and integrating them into a single table—you might need to include multiple permission statements, one for each source.
If you are simply pulling data from multiple sources, rather than repurposing columns or rows from preexisting tables (the data are not subject to copyright, but their presentation is), then it may be appropriate to just include standard author–date text citations within the table. This type of table is often used to summarize the results of multiple studies, which makes it easier for readers to digest the information, and is commonly used in meta-analyses. Below is a sample table in which each row represents a different study:
Summary of Studies Included in Meta-Analysis on the Effectiveness of Rocking Out Like No One’s Watching (ROLNOW)
Dumile & Jackson (2015)
Garcia, Homme, Oliveri, & Bjork (2014)
Iyer, Lehman, & Sorey (2014)
Onuki, Agata, & Hamamoto (2014)
Although studies are usually cited in the first column of a summary table, I’ve come across tables that list the citations in one of the middle columns or across the first row. Some tables might include multiple citations in a single column or row if these studies share similar features. How you choose to organize the contents of your table will depend on context and how you want readers to process the information.
It’s worth noting that the order of the rows in Table 1 reflects the alphabetical order of the citations as they would appear in the reference list. Even though APA Style does not address this directly, organizing the rows or columns of a table in this manner is a standard convention for summary tables. It also follows the general APA Style guideline about alphabetizing multiple sources within the same parenthetical citation to match how they are ordered in the reference list (see pp. 177—178 in the Publication Manual). If it makes more sense to organize the rows and columns in your table using a different standard—again, depending on the context—feel free to do so. Just make sure that readers can easily follow the flow of information!
In some cases, you may not want to devote an entire row or column to citing resources. Or, perhaps your citations apply to just a few cells or particular pieces of data. If so, it may be appropriate to cite your sources, using the author–date format, in one of two ways. First, you could include parenthetical citations within the table itself next to the relevant information, just as you would do with a standard text citation. Another approach would be to cite your sources below the table in a general note—as demonstrated in the Table 1 note from Sample Paper 1 on page 52 of the Publication Manual—or in multiple specific notes that connect your citations to particular cells via superscript, lowercase letters (see pp. 138–139 in the Publication Manual for more details). This latter method can be handy if one source applies to more than one cell and is used in the example table below, but parenthetical citations within the cells would be equally acceptable.
Sample Responses to the ROLNOW Survey
How cool did you feel?
“Cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.”a
“Not at all cool. I actually felt kind of dorky.”b
How motivated and energized did you feel?
“I felt ready to take on the world!”c
“Not very. I almost fell asleep!”b
How happy were you?
“I was completely elated and filled with positive thoughts!”d
“I was pretty happy, but I don’t think rocking out had anything to do with it.”a
How physically attractive did you feel?
“I felt pretty, oh so pretty!”e
“I was a gyrating mess of flailing limbs, so I probably didn’t look all that attractive.”c
aDumile and Jackson (2015, p. 31). bIyer, Lehman, and Sorey (2014, p. 79). cOnuki, Agata, and Hamamoto (2014, p. 101). dGarcia, Homme, Oliveri, and Bjork (2014, p. 47). eAtashin (2013, p. 56).
You may have noticed a few differences between the citations in Tables 1 and 2. One is that the Table 2 notes—unlike the rows in Table 1—are not alphabetized. Specific notes are organized according to where the superscripts appear in the table, following the left-to-right and top-to-bottom order described on page 138 in the Publication Manual. Another difference is that Table 1 includes ampersands, whereas Table 2 spells out and. Although and is usually written instead of & when the authors are listed before the parenthetical citation, page 175 in the Publication Manual states that ampersands should be used within the body of the table (and should still be used outside of parentheses in table notes, as shown in the Table 1 note from Sample Paper 1). This helps save space because two fewer characters can sometimes make all the difference in such tight quarters. Finally, direct quotations are presented in Table 2, so the citations in the table note include page numbers. However, you do not need to include page numbers when citing numerical data, as in Table 1.
The example tables in this post offer a very limited scope when considering the many different types of tables that can be found in the wilds of academic publishing—and they are admittedly a tad sillier than is typical. However, the general citation guidelines they present can be easily adapted to just about any kind of table you might need to create. To find example tables that are more relevant to your needs, I recommend combing through journals that follow APA Style.
APA Tables and Figures 1
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:29:23
The purpose of tables and figures in documents is to enhance your readers' understanding of the information in the document. Most word processing software available today will allow you to create your own tables and figures, and even the most basic of word processors permit the embedding of images, thus enabling you to include tables and figures in almost any document.
Necessity. Visual material such as tables and figures can be used quickly and efficiently to present a large amount of information to an audience, but visuals must be used to assist communication, not to use up space, or disguise marginally significant results behind a screen of complicated statistics. Ask yourself this question first: Is the table or figure necessary? For example, it is better to present simple descriptive statistics in the text, not in a table.
Relation of Tables or Figures and Text. Because tables and figures supplement the text, refer in the text to all tables and figures used and explain what the reader should look for when using the table or figure. Focus only on the important point the reader should draw from them, and leave the details for the reader to examine on their own.
Documentation. If you are using figures, tables and/or data from other sources, be sure to gather all the information you will need to properly document your sources.
Integrity and Independence. Each table and figure must be intelligible without reference to the text, so be sure to include an explanation of every abbreviation (except the standard statistical symbols and abbreviations).
Organization, Consistency, and Coherence. Number all tables sequentially as you refer to them in the text (Table 1, Table 2, etc.), likewise for figures (Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.). Abbreviations, terminology, and probability level values must be consistent across tables and figures in the same article. Likewise, formats, titles, and headings must be consistent. Do not repeat the same data in different tables.
- Is the table necessary?
- Is the entire table single- or double-spaced (including the title, headings, and notes)?
- Are all comparable tables presented consistently?
- Is the title brief but explanatory?
- Does every column have a column heading?
- Are all abbreviations; special use of italics, parentheses, and dashes; and special symbols explained?
- Are all probability level values correctly identified, and are asterisks attached to the appropriate table entries? Is a probability level assigned the same number of asterisks in all the tables in the same document?
- Are the notes organized according to the convention of general, specific, probability?
- Are all vertical rules eliminated?
- If the table or its data are from another source, is the source properly cited?
- Is the table referred to in the text?
Data in a table that would require only two or fewer columns and rows should be presented in the text. More complex data is better presented in tabular format. In order for quantitative data to be presented clearly and efficiently, it must be arranged logically, e.g. data to be compared must be presented next to one another (before/after, young/old, male/female, etc.), and statistical information (means, standard deviations, N values) must be presented in separate parts of the table. If possible, use canonical forms (such as ANOVA, regression, or correlation) to communicate your data effectively.
The following image illustrates the basic structure of tables.
Numbers. Number all tables with Arabic numerals sequentially. Do not use suffix letters (e.g. Table 3a, 3b, 3c); instead, combine the related tables. If the manuscript includes an appendix with tables, identify them with capital letters and Arabic numerals (e.g. Table A1, Table B2).
Titles. Like the title of the paper itself, each table must have a clear and concise title. When appropriate, you may use the title to explain an abbreviation parenthetically.
Example: Comparison of Median Income of Adopted Children (AC) v. Foster Children (FC)
Headings. Keep headings clear and brief. The heading should not be much wider than the widest entry in the column. Use of standard abbreviations can aid in achieving that goal. All columns must have headings, even the stub column (see example structure), which customarily lists the major independent variables.
Body. In reporting the data, consistency is key: Numerals should be expressed to a consistent number of decimal places that is determined by the precision of measurement. Never change the unit of measurement or the number of decimal places in the same column.
Specific Types of Tables
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) Tables. The conventional format for an ANOVA table is to list the source in the stub column, then the degrees of freedom (df) and the F ratios. Give the between-subject variables and error first, then within-subject and any error. Mean square errors must be enclosed in parentheses. Provide a general note to the table to explain what those values mean (see example). Use asterisks to identify statistically significant F ratios, and provide a probability footnote.
Image Caption: Table 3 ANOVA Table
Regression. Conventional reporting of regression analysis follows two formats. If the study is purely applied, list only the raw or unstandardized coefficients (B). If the study is purely theoretical, list only the standardized coefficients (beta). If the study was neither purely applied nor theoretical, then list both standardized and unstandardized coefficients. Specify the type of analysis, either hierarchical or simultaneous, and provide the increments of change if you used hierarchical regression.
Image Caption: Table 4 Regression Table
Notes in Tables
There are three types of notes for tables: general, specific, and probability notes. All of them must be placed below the table in that order.
General notes explain, qualify or provide information about the table as a whole. Put explanations of abbreviations, symbols, etc. here.
Example: Note. The racial categories used by the US Census (African-American, Asian American, Latinos/-as, Native-American, and Pacific Islander) have been collapsed into the category “non-White.” E = excludes respondents who self-identified as “White” and at least one other “non-White” race.
Specific notes explain, qualify or provide information about a particular column, row, or individual entry. To indicate specific notes, use superscript lowercase letters (e.g. a, b, c), and order the superscripts from left to right, top to bottom. Each table’s first footnote must be the superscript a.
Example: a n = 823. b One participant in this group was diagnosed with schizophrenia during the survey.
Probability notes provide the reader with the results of the tests for statistical significance. Asterisks indicate the values for which the null hypothesis is rejected, with the probability (p value) specified in the probability note. Such notes are required only when relevant to the data in the table. Consistently use the same number of asterisks for a given alpha level throughout your paper.
Image Caption: Sample Table Notes
If you need to distinguish between two-tailed and one-tailed tests in the same table, use asterisks for two-tailed p values and an alternate symbol (such as daggers) for one-tailed p values.
Image Caption: More Table Notes
Tables from Other Sources
If using tables from a source, copy the structure of the original exactly, and cite the source in accordance with APA style.